By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
Everybody cares about you now. And we’re all in this together.
My bank, my alumni association, every airline that I’ve ever flown with. They all care about me and are concerned about me, now. If I’m not sure, I can “click here” to see more.
I suppose it’s good customer service. Of course. I suppose that’s the foundation of anyone’s business. But what about the church? Is that how it works?
I’m not really talking about the physical building or even the business organization of the local church. No matter how much you love Jesus, you can’t plant a money tree in the back and you still need a budget.
At the core, a business relationship is defined by a transaction. I’m not trying to be cynical here—well maybe a little. If somebody is trying to sell me something, I tend to always see the relationship through that lens. Once I stop buying your product or paying for the services that your company provides, the relationship changes. Nothing personal. Just business.
The early church, the ekklesia, the literal gathering of the people who had committed their lives to following Jesus, was different. The church was built on a different transaction. Think about it this way. In a purely business relationship, my love for you is based on what you can give me. There’s always a “give to get” relationship.
With Jesus, it’s different. Love is the starting point of the relationship. We love because God first loved us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have lived in perfect community forever. God didn’t need us to meet some unfulfilled need. The act of creation itself was an extension, a sharing of that love.
Perfect love defines that relationship. Jesus went to the Cross for us because He loves us. He knew our sin—past, present, and future. He knew that like Peter and the rest of the disciples, we would desert Him. Yet, with full knowledge of what was ahead, he went.
The type of love we’re talking about here is sacrificial love, not transactional love.
It’s this type of love that was the hallmark of the early church. Sure, they had conflict and argued and sometimes even split up and went separate ways. Yet, they were devoted to the type of genuine community that met the material needs of the most vulnerable and the spiritual needs of the most broken. Their devotion to the apostles’ teaching led to a true devotion to one another.
The first disciples and their friends were willing to suffer and die themselves for the proclamation of the gospel. And throughout the generations, disciples have been willing to follow in their footsteps and love without an earthly return on their investment.
Why? Because they experienced God’s love for themselves, a love that was not a reward for their performance or a benefit that they had earned.
When you begin to grasp the depth of that type of love, you can’t help but share it. . . free of any expectation that you’ll be paid back.
Where in your life are you giving to get something in return?
Father, thank you for loving me on the basis on who you are, not who I am.
Read 1 Corinthians 13.